Doing self-preservation riding again, and avoiding Tempelhofer Feld on the weekend. First, finally did the Weserstr. cobbles, which are dead tasty. Then, did the same ride as last week but in the opposite direction, and when I got to a bit after this photo, turned off to Großziethen, ’cos I thought I might find a way up that massive old rubbish hill from last week. Didn’t. Good ride anyway.
I was going to do some laps of Tempelhofer Feld today, but remembered last weekend when it was fucking packed. Berlin and all of Germany is facing an Ausgangssperre, a proper curfew and lockdown like Italy, and I didn’t and don’t want to add to the problem by being another person at the old airport, irrespective of how much ‘social distancing’ I’m doing, and I don’t want to be counted among those wankers who’ve never learned responsibility and obligation to community.
So I buggered off south down Hermannstraße, hung a left at the border with Brandenburg and practiced self-preservation along the Berliner Mauerweg. People were out, but mostly in ones and twos, or families, plenty of solo cyclists also. Let’s be clear, quarantine at home is going to kill people and ruin the lives of a whole heap more, people who never come into contact with the virus. “Quarantine without testing is a project of social control that transfers responsibility for sickness from states to individuals” which the governments (city, state, federal, EU) have done such a fucking remarkable job of in their deliberate abnegation of responsibility. This is what happens when crisis necro-capitalism meets a real fucking crisis, one that can’t be bailed out or austerity-ed away or debated or ‘both sides’ or any other bullshit jizzed in our faces by the utterly, utterly ineffectual governments and political parties of all the countries hooked on ‘economic growth’ at the expense of actual, real, long-term caring for community. And by ‘community’ I mean everything, trees, land, birds, the sad canal running through Wedding that I love, and not just people, like we’re magically isolated and atomised from what we are inextricably a part of.
The ride curved north and into a dead tasty headwind, pushing me into one of those trances where I get all aero, breathing endlessly and hard and staying in and with that suffering, burdening myself, remembering Annemiek van Vleuten doing her 100 kilometre solo to win the road world championships, Kasia Niewiadoma, Marianne Vos. It’s good to have women whose level of finding joy in suffering is so far beyond mine. It’s so different from cyclocross, those short gut-churning efforts, the exhausting concentration of technical riding at speed and physically maxed out. This is just sticking at it, over and over, getting comfortable in it until it’s over. Riding until I abrade away some of the anger and fear and sadness.
This photo would have been slightly different but my iPhone battery decided to die. Anyway, it’s just south of Freizeitpark Am Vogelwäldchen, which itself is just south of Gropiusstadt, and looking west at the old Mülldeponie Großziethen. That’s not a hill, that’s a rubbish dump!
In the words of my One True Daddy, Vin Diesel, “I live for this shit.”
Thankfully Tempelhofer Feld wasn’t packed today like an open-air concert as it has been the last couple of days when I went for a ride (and bailed, ’cos fucking Germans not taking shit seriously and making exceptions for themselves the last month is the default, legit scary, and the reason we’re in this mess). I’ve been working the various single tracks on the fields, practicing self-preservation through solitary endurance. I’m a little worried the city is going to go on lockdown, and fuck knows what I’ll do to satisfy my need for high-quality suffering if I can’t ride, also bike is in dire need of new components. Highlights of today though, finding a series of run-ups and drop-offs that I actually went, “Nah, I’m gonna hold on that till I’m more stupid.”
Deserves a swear ’cos it’s that good.
I can’t believe I’ve ridden there for so long and completely missed what I actually knew was there 🤦🏻♀️🤷🏻♀️. I’ve done thousands of laps of Tempelhofer Feld, on the default boring outer loop, on the inner pavé, all over on the single track, and I knew there was this section around where the old DC-3 is, the north inner field directly down from the north gate, that had some good steep ride-ups / run-ups, and something in a bunch of trees I’d never ventured into, and all that time I’ve been missing the forest around Flughafen Tegel, which is proper, fast up and down slippery technical cyclocross, and who’s a stupid intransigent bitch whose neurofuckery makes her do the same thing over and over?
I needed an easier and entertaining ride today, ’cos my week has been two hard rides and strength work that left me sore, and I didn’t want to go round and round, especially when this storm is moving in and 25km/h winds with gusts around 60km/h wouldn’t make for ‘easier’. And I’ve been enjoying the northern pavé (around the circus tents area) where I can work on sharp turns and hard braking / acceleration. So I decided to make a kind of flip-flop back and forth reverse-c shaped loop (which ended up being around 12km per loop) with some exploring of that bit I have no explanation for why I’ve not ridden it until now.
And fucking fuck yes. Fucking pump track! Small one, tight, better on a BMX or Slopestyle type bike than a cyclocross, proved to me I absolutely do not know how to pump, which is dope as fuck ’cos that means I get to learn something new and I am legit excited as shit by that. And there’s all these other trails I did not ride (so many!) and the ones I did, very fast occasionally technical single track, with sharp ride-ups (run-ups when they’re muddy), plenty of technical turns, the type of clay-y sandy mud that gets greasy and slippery, plenty of changes in terrain, there’s excellent loops of 4–8km, and I will be making that one of my weekly rides. Also slightly ridiculous riding it on 33mm cobble / pavé tires with effectively no tread and hella gripless on anything remotely ‘off-road’ but I don’t have the euros for another set of tires and stupid fun is stupid fun.
So very 🌈
Ever since I saw Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado racing a couple of years ago, not even 20 years old and smashing it in the Under-23 and Elite levels (’cos of course women’s cyclocross is only now beginning to approach parity with the menz) she became my Number 1 fave. Yes, I am a fan. Her 2018-19 season was what gets called a breakthrough, but this season 😱. Currently she’s 1st in the DVV Trofee, 1st in Superprestige, was so close to winning the UCI World Cup until that last off-camber at Hoogerheide, ending 2nd there, 1st also in UCI Under-23 World Cup, Netherlands National Championships, UEC European Under-23 Championships, plus enough 1st’s and podiums in so many races she could retire now, at age 21, and still be one of the all-time greats.
And today, having decided a couple of weeks ago to race in the Elite UCI World Championships and not the Under-23s, on an utter slog of a course, where her mad technical skills were going to once again come up against Annemarie Worst’s sprint, in a race which came to those two in a sprint, she utterly fucking smashed it.
World Champion right there.
I did not expect her to win the rainbow bands this year. On a muddy, sandy, cold, technical, up and down course like Namur, against Annemarie Worst or Lucinda Brandt, yes, but this flat grind which would always favour sprinters, I thought she’d need another off-season to work out how to do that. Maybe it was Hoogerheide, which she was going to win until that slide out of the muddy rut blew it all apart, the first time all season she’d had such a catastrophic wipeout. This was her comeback race and for those three riders, it was a truly brutal one from start to finish.
And yes, it’s so important she’s Dominican-Dutch, one of the only brown riders in a sport that’s so white — historically cyclocross is a sport for weird Belgian and Dutch farmers in winter, but even in the UK, US, Canada, and elsewhere where’s it’s become huge, it’s dead slack on diversity — and the only one at that level who’s getting any regular attention. Plus I will always rate big curly hair.
Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado 🌈🥇🇳🇱🇩🇴 2020 UCI Cyclocross Women’s Elite World Champion.
This time last year, I got spat on by that squall moving through. I finished 2019 with a ride yesterday and began 2020 with a ride today. All strangely subdued. No snow, not for the past few years, and not like those first years in Berlin when it’d be -10° or colder. I haven’t worn winter pants for three years or more. Riding in the sun, windy enough to bring the chill below zero, but not the kind of cold I’d have to shower to heat myself up from. I kept it calm today, just doing the laps, no pushing. I came home and watched Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado smash it at Baal cyclocross.
Finishing the year and starting the year doing the work.
2018, I wore a heart rate monitor for all my training, riding, climbing, yoga, whatever. It felt a bit much. 2019, I stuck to riding only. All of which I keep notes of in a training diary in my calendar, ’cos I’m like that. So, 121 rides last year, and 150+ ‘yoga’ (core, strength, stretching, body work type, as well as actual yoga). Less riding than 2018, fewer long rides, virtually no climbing, and other year without doing a ballet or any kind of dance class in a studio, in front of a mirror.
Interesting stuff: The month of May, with almost no going into the red, and plenty of green and blue zones, that was Ramadan. The hole with nothing in it, June and July, that was me having my face peeled off in Spain. The first big ride, in October, was the Women’s 100, and the second was riding the Berliner Mauerweg on Tag der Deutschen Einheit. In retrospect, I can already see in my gappy training that chronic fatigue from a year of over-intensity and stress (surgery was only a part of it) was getting to me, November and half of December is that burnout.
Bike is currently in need of complete rebuild and new components, most of my cycling gear is similarly needing to be retired, but whatever. I keep riding. Every ride has had something in it for me, and it’s been so, so good for my mental and emotional health, as well as keeping my physicality ticking over. And it’s winter, a broken, very much not cold and snowless winter, barely ever below zero, but even that, riding in the cold, wet, dark grot makes me smile.
My fave cyclocross rider for the last couple of years, probably my fave rider full stop, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado. And one of my favourite races, the very sandy, very hilly, very intense Koksijde. I was screaming when she opened the gap in the last sand section towards the end of the last lap, after five laps of head-to-head with a quartet of the best, screaming even louder when Lucinda Brand cooked the last hairpin (though I wish she hadn’t). Mad good racing and loving Ceylin taking her first World Cup elite victory, especially at Koksijde.
Off for my afternoon training ride, picking through traffic on Reuterstraße, crossing Sonnenallee and there’s a big unit of 4WD behind me. I was feeling sharp after my last ride, first proper interval sprint training since before Ramadan, using the traffic lights turning green as out-of-saddle starts, keeping the pace tight. Heading up towards Flughafenstraße, that turbo diesel behind me, I’m indicating as I pull around double-parked cars, two-finger pointing flicks of my wrists, and just past the pedestrian crossing at Erlanger Str. I hear it gun and pull along side me. I’m thinking, “A’right, here we go, bruv in his whip is flexing ’cos he thinks I’m in his lane.” It’s a pristine glossy white bimmer, X5 kinda thing, and he’s got his passenger window down. I’m all about to pull screwface but he doesn’t give me a chance, looks across at me, beautiful black guy with the biggest smile like he’s experienced the most joyful thing, and shouts over.
“I fell in love with you, watching you cycle!”
True, I look hectic sikk, I know.
Of course I smiled back, smiled with, of course, y’know, sometimes this stuff is just real. Sometimes it’s like my serious nah not really but nah kinda yeah fantasy actually pulls up next to me in his whip and gives me a look and compliment that is so completely honest and committed, and truth, I am holding everyone else to his high standards, and my heart filled up like the entire theatre, stalls, balconies and all, went off when Kano joined Giggs at the Roundhouse. Real truth, that.
And as I was doing laps of Tempelhofer Feld in the afternoon sun, thinking of all that, thinking, “Yeah perhaps he read me as a bro?” ’cos I’m tall and kinda slender, and people make a habit of reading taller and more physical as ‘male’, and I have this constant questioning around physicality and masculinity, like all women do, but then I thought, “Okay, if he did, then I’m still taking the compliment,” I’m taking it even if — especially if — he read me as trans, ’cos being able to genuinely express joy and emotion and attraction the way he did, flexing his queer self loudly reading me as masc or straight self into trans chicks, fuck yes, I am here for that. I want and need much more of that unequivocal desire and speaking that desire. And I’ve been talking a lot with my grans lately, Aisha and Iwa, and felt very much this was Allah and the universe reading me, seeing me, seeing me.
I know also some of you reading this, some of you cis women and afab people are gonna wanna tell me how this is objectifying and tell me shit like I don’t already know this, like I haven’t lived this since my early teens, like I would only think and write this if what? I’m seeking validation in misogyny? ’Cos I’m trans? And you think you need to educate me? What can you tell me about anything of what this means, in itself or to me?
A compliment. A compliment is sometimes just a compliment, just reciprocating the joy someone else causes in you, and when I’m receiving it from a source way too an accurate read of what I vibe strongly with, yeah, that’s part of it. Maybe I was that for him too, lighting up the streets of Neukölln, deep in my physicality, and we both looked at each other and laughed in recognising that too perfect moment. Remember that. Remember that beauty. Remember that truth in all what he said.
“I fell in love with you, watching you cycle!”